Chicago’s ongoing, egregious winter weather definitely contributed to my enthusiasm for the new group show at Bucket Rider, “Living Room Paintings.” Stepping inside the gallery from the street feels a lot like being served a neon-blue margarita with a couple of hot pink umbrellas at an uber-chic, cyber-minimalist bar: in other words, where did all this color come from? The eight painters in the show include locals Angel Otero, Andreas Fisher and Christian Rieben. Otero’s paintings give a strong visual impact with messy reds and yellows, and “Pretty Crowded (Compresed City)” accurately captures the complexity and energy of the metropolis. Rieben is less subtle but equally painterly, and his bright, wet canvas “Sweater Queen,” a pile of sweaters topped by a deep yellow Basquiat crown, makes a viewer glad to be inside. Fisher is also well represented, but his two paintings seem out of place amid the juicy, vibrant paint filling the gallery. Swedish artist Anna Bjerger joins in with a brushy self-portrait and Brian Bess’ collage shifts the tone with the only mixed media presentation. The irony of the show’s title is the only misstep. In the press release, “Living Room Paintings” refers to the idea that art “must operate in congruity to one’s décor.” Bucket Rider is ostensibly presenting paintings that resist becoming “mere” decoration. Will “decorative” ever stop appearing as the bête noire of art? When will it be clear that a “living room” painting is not one that meets the interior designer’s specifications, but is, with the highest compliment, one you want to live with? (Rachel Furnari)
Through March 1 at Bucket Rider Gallery, 835 W. Washington.